Thursday, also known as my birthday, started with my navigating the amazingness that was the “Dirty Sixth” aka Sixth Street in Austin. Closed off to traffic, it was what I imagine Bourbon Street to be like, except with indie music instead of jazz. Music and people everywhere, artists and press interspersed amongst us commoners, it felt like a place where it was impossible not to have a good time.
I strolled into The Stage On Sixth due to the allure of free Samuel Adams and was not disappointed by the beverages or the entertainment. Dinosaur Feathers impressed with their brand of indie rock, harmonies and melodies were on point. I left soon after as the crowd got a bit too large for my tastes.
Speaking of large crowds, I decided that it would be nice to see what all the hype was about at HypeM’s Hype Hotel and since I was pretty early, the line for wristbands wasn’t outrageous. It soon became outrageous behind me. Once inside, I saw what all the fuss was about. Free drinks! Free Taco Bell burritos! Oh, and music.
I did not know what to expect from Lee Fields (a wiki search calls him a funk legend but that’s on the page for Sharon Jones) and his band The Expressions but any expectations I could have had would have been blown out of the water. I rarely see an artist perform with such passion and his brand of funk/soul must be the closest thing to being able to see a James-Brown-like-performance currently available. His youthful band, particularly the brass section, helped keep the crowd electrified during what felt like a legendary performance. One of my favourite finds of SXSW. “Faithful Man” gave me chills throughout, unfortunately it seems like no one’s captured it so here is the studio version:
Speaking of youth, the next band that I had a chance to see were the unassuming dudes from Youth Lagoon, whose album The Year Of Hibernation was one of my favourites of 2011. Though they lacked a little in stage presence, their dreamy music was stellar and had the crowd engaged (enough to make someone next to me scream out in anticipation “Here comes the drum machine!“, and yes, he was serious).
The final band of my Hype Hotel experience was Alabama Shakes, a band that fittingly has a lot of hype. Led by the soulful voice and guitars of Brittany Howard, this is a blues-r&b-soul-indie-rock fusion like I’ve never seen/heard before. They lived up to expectations, rocking the Doritos-flavoured taco shells out of our hands.
Afterwards, I headed to The Belmont to catch three bands that I’m a fan of (unlike most people there, who were there for one). Arkells were one of the first on stage and put on a great performance. This was despite the fact that I was the only one in a crowd of 400 joining in with their Canadian indie-rock singalongs. It was a bit startling as I’m used to them commanding crowds at Sound Academy, but I suppose that was the nature of this beast.
Titus Andronicus followed and, as always, rocked the crowd with their indie punk sound. Songs from The Monitor were expectedly brilliant but I’m not too sure about the poppier, more-polished sound of their newer material. I’ll reserve judgment until the album though.
Finally, the band everyone was there to see, The Jesus & Mary Chain, hit the stage. Despite what seemed like a bit of tension on stage between the Reid brothers and a naked guy running onto the stage at some point, the band seemed to pick up where they left off in the early 90s. The songs were captivating, the focused wall-of-guitar sound had the entire crowd moving and Jim Reid’s voice, despite being a bit lower than I was expecting, sounded great. A great end to my second night at SXSW! See my photos here.
I’m flying off to #SXSW in Austin in 2 days! One thing I want to do before I leave is highlight some of the Canadian bands that I’ve loved for the past few years an am excited to potentially see in a new environment. Since each band is likely playing some free unofficial showcases, I’ll link the official SXSW music schedule and a decent unofficial party list where you can search for any bands here that pique your interest while RSVPing like mad. These bands, like most of the music I like, tends to fall in the genre of indie rock. Rather than reading me describe them, just give them a listen!
I’ve long been a fan of the Arkells and their brand of Canadian Rock (if you’re not familiar think Sloan or a better version of The Trews). Their debut Jackson Square had a lot of staying power in my rotation and singles like “The Ballad Of Hugo Chavez” and “Deadlines” still bring a smile to my face. The magnitude of their previous work had me super excited to hear about their upcoming release Michigan Left. Below is lead single “Kiss Cam”:
I’m even more excited to announce a major Michigan Left Arkells giveaway in collaboration with Universal Music Canada!
There are 4 prizes available:
(2) copies of Michigan Left
(1) Michigan Left Poster+CD prizepack (1) grand prize of a signed Arkells 2-single vinyl
To enter: Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and name the Beatles member that the Arkells have a song titled after. Feel free to follow @katuwapitiya on Twitter and look out for a message to RT for an additional entry as well! The deadline for entries is Friday November 4th, 2011!
My concert season in Toronto started off with a bang: Arkells at Sound Academy (presented by The Edge at Bookie’s Big Blast). The band from Hamilton definitely did not disappoint as headliners. They rocked hard and considering that I only knew 2 of their songs going in, I was pleasantly surprised. The guitars were on point, the vocals sounded as great as on their album (which I purchased after the concert, a limited edition purple vinyl), and they just reminded me of why I love Canadian rock. Hopefully there’s a lot more to come. My favourite of the night? The Ballad Of Hugo Chavez (complete with a loud audience singalong). Here’s the music video for the song:
The venue of Sound Academy was as confusing as always and the bathroom attendant was screaming about female genitalia all night, but overall, a great night! And there’s only more to come with Frightened Rabbit on Wednesday and The Walkmen on Friday! Stay tuned!